Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Average Income and Poverty

I babbled about this in the fall and asked people what they thought the average income was per person in conversation. What I found then, and I was surprised as well, is that we (our social/economic circles) tend to overestimate what the average or median income is in America. This was back during the campaign when Obamarama was talking about giving a tax cut to those families making under $250,000.

I tossed up some links as proof but I came across this recently and wanted to share it.

In a nutshell, the median HOUSEHOLD income in America in 2007 was $50,233. Now, I don't know about you but to me that is not a lot for a household. For a median individual I would think that would be ok but a fair amount of households are dual earners and for it to be that low? Wow.

Poverty level, as a point of comparison, breaks down for a "family of four in 2007 was $21,203; for a family of three, $16,530; for a family of two, $13,540; and for unrelated individuals, $10,590.".

I'll be interested to see what the median household income is in 2009.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Well now, this is a scary thought.


...about what you all think of this post.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Keeps Ryan Up At Night - Chairs!

Ok, this came to be last night or the night before, don't recall which...but I was thinking: "Sci Fi has a lot of creatures that walk and talk like people but have weird parts, like tails." Right? That is true.

However, look at the chairs on these shows! How the hell does something with a tail sit in a chair! And what if you have three butt cheeks? Or no butt at all! It isn't going to be real comfortable. That is butt discrimination right there, people!

Sci Fi writers need to think of this stuff. If I was a lizard-person and I had a tail, you better believe I'd want to sit every once in a while!

And no, I wasn't smoking/drinking/injecting/etc anything. These are the things that come to me late at night.

And yes, I get blank looks a lot. I am ok with this.


Going through a bunch of mail I meant to read but forgot to, came across this.

I like.

How Many 'F's?


How many F's do you count?

Friday, February 13, 2009


For class I had to find and take an intelligence test. I usually do the assignment and post before I read any of the discussion so I am not swayed but what other people say. As it turns out, I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had read what others did. I ended up taking a 109 question test that took me a solid two hours to do while it seemed like most others were taking the tiny tests.

In any case, after forking out the $7 for the details results I found it totally worth it. It broke the measurements down into several areas. The Logical, Verbal and Analogy areas are where I scored the highest. The Arithmetic and and Numerical sections are where I flopped. The biggest surprise was a section titled Puzzles. The description follows:

By taking clues and putting them in order, it is usually possible to deduce a plausible answer by understanding the relationships between the items and eliminating certain options. This skill is very handy for detectives, journalists and even office managers. This skill involves seeing the “big picture” but also understanding the details and how they fit together.

This is where I scored the highest by 15 points.

Maybe I should start reading mystery novels.

Oh, if you want to take the test here is the link.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Testy Test

Ignore me

Pompus Punks

More Krugmans please:

Not to rant too much, but this is why I can't watch cable news. The pompus attitude of these guys just amazes me. These chuckleheads have no idea what the hell they are talking about but they are trying to come across like they do. I love Krugman laughing at Scarborough, that was awesome. And for that dork to put himself up as a 'model fiscal conservative' and to say there was no grid lock in the 90's but it was just a separation of powers??? Jesus.

And Buchanan, BUCHANAN? How the hell is this guy still on TV?

Liberal media bias my ass.

Banks and Insolvency

I was reading some stuff online, avoiding my homework, and came across a post and some comments that really helped to explain to me what the big dealio going on right now is all about. I'll try to sum up my understanding and then throw the link to the article and point out some comments if you want to know more.

The short simple explanation is that banks lent money to people for some amount plus interest then turned around and borrowed money from other institutions for the same base plus a smaller amount and so on. In this way the banks were 'over-leveraged'.

From a commenter on the original post, an example of what leveraging looks like:

The scenario goes like this:

I lend you my last $100 in exchange for a $10 payment at the end of the year and an IOU.

Based on that IOU for $110 payable at the end of the year. To cover my expenses until you pay me back, I borrow another lender's last $90 promise to pay back $95 at the end of the year.

That lender then to cover their expenses, borrows $80 and promises to pay back $82 at the end of the year.

So, based on initial loan of $100, $287 is floating around. A ratio of 2.87 to 1

Now let's say you lose your job, declare bankruptcy and won't be able to repay. I've lost my expected $110. And because I can't repay, the guy I borrowed from lost his expected $95. And because he can't repay, the gal he borrowed from lost her expected $82.

There are estimates that that some banks were leveraged at a ratio of $30 (money they borrowed for every $1 dollar in assets (money they lent)

You can see how these numbers start to add up in a very big way very quickly. Remember, this is all on paper as well under something called 'mark to market'. I believe 'mark to market' means that a bank declares the worth of an asset based on what they believe the market will pay for it, not what will actually be paid.

An example:

So games are played with accounting rules about mark to market, so they can continue claiming the assets are worth more, like your neighbor who bought a house in 2006 for $800,000 which, through comps, is now worth $500,000. Said neighbor still telling self and others that the house is still worth $800,000.

This is all fine and dandy as long as those original loans can be paid back and the originator bank can pay back their loans and on down the leveraged chain. The problem starts when large amounts of loans start to default, then the banks can't pay back their lenders, etc and everything goes down the drain.

So did the mortgage crisis cause this? No, it just exposed it. It seems to me that the actual cause was the over-leveraged nature of the loans and the lack of regulation preventing real valuation of assets, rather than the 'mark to market' fantasy.

Now, here is the real scary part and where the insolvency comes in. For a long time people were calling this a liquidity problem, implying that money was locked up between banks and we just needed to inject more in to get it flowing again. That assumed that the bank assets were actually still in the positive. What is becoming apparent is that these banks are totally insolvent. In other words, if they had to actually sell their assets right now at what someone might actually pay for them, they would be in the red very quickly. So these banks don't want to sell because they would go out of business. Instead, they hold on to it and hope things will turn around and make their assets worth what they claim they are worth.

To put another way, if you were a bank and your mortgage were all your assets, what would you do if you owed more than you could sell your house for like 1 in 4 American's are right now (myself included)? You'd sit on it and hope that things turn around if you could, right? That is what I'm doing and by the looks of things, it going to be a much longer wait than I hoped. :(

The sooner these banks are forced to declare how much the assets are actually worth the sooner we can deal with the damage. Until that happens it is just going to be games with accounting rules and money thrown at a problem (liquidity) that doesn't actually exist.

Here is the article that I was referring to...the comments are very informative.

From a Concerned Colonial Citizen

For certain BSG fans...Enjoy.

Small Government!

Sign me up!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adventures in Sailing!

The past week has had me on the boat quite a bit.  Three times I have attempted to actually sail, only two of which were successful.  Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon and evening on the boat, including a nice long nap to test it out.  It is actually more spacious in the bow than I thought, which is good.

Anyway, a little log (with some pictures!) of those three sailing attempts.

The first one represents the first day I put the engine on the boat.  This was Sunday, Feb 1st.  The weather was nice that day, if you recall and the winds were perfect (15 knots or so).  I was concerned about two things primarily regarding the engine: 1) whether it would start from being in storage all winter and 2) whether the gas was any good.  I’ll spare you the details of trying to find a new gas tank for the old engine and just say I added fuel to it.  Anyway, I put the engine on its mount (crushing my hand in the process, yay) and fired it up.  The thing started on the first pull.  That never happens for me as outboard engines all hate me.  I was quite pleased so I let the thing run while we rigged the boat for sailing.

We got the main sail on and the jib hanked and were ready to roll.  After discussing how we were going to pull out I kicked the engine into reverse and we started to pull out of the slip.  Now, it is important to understand how this slip is situated.  My boat is on the last slip with the shore about 40 feet behind it.  About 12 feet in front of the shore is a line that is there to keep you from stranding yourself.  That leaves about 28 feet or so to run a 25 foot boat up stream.  Normally this isn’t that big of a deal but I had two things working against me.  First, the wind was blowing along the broad side of the boat, so as soon as the lines were freed the boat started to slide towards the other boats.  And second, the damn engine cut out when we were halfway out of the slip.  Damn it.

So while Lisa vainly tried to push us away from the other boats I was getting the engine started again.  The thing was pretty hot, hotter than it should have been.  Apparently it had overheated.  Fantastic.  After a lot of manhandling and getting the engine started for brief moments we were able to maneuver the boat into someone else’s slip about four down from my own, downwind of course.  The prospect of trying to walk the boat back up the dock in the wind wasn’t very appealing.

I spent the next hour or so dicking around with the engine.  Now, as you all know, outboard engines are cooled by sucking in water from the bottom of the engine via a water pump, circulating it through the cylinder head, and then ‘peeing’ it out a little hole.  Typically you look to make sure the engine is peeing before you let it run.  This is something I always did on my speedboat but managed to not do on this one.  Well, it wasn’t peeing, thus something was preventing it from sucking up the water and cooling itself off.

With the cover off of the engine and using it very sparingly after it had cooled off we were able to get the boat back into the correct slip.  We raised the sails to check them out since I hadn’t actually looked at them yet, then struck them, bagged them, and cleaned up.  Lisa mentioned that we managed to do all the hard parts of sailing (setting and striking sails, leaving and returning to a mooring) but none of the fun stuff (actually sailing). 

I took the engine home to fix because I was sure I knew what the problem was.  You see, the same thing happened to my big ass 150 hp Merc that put my speedboat out of commission.  Namely, I started the thing out-of-the-water like a total moron.  The problem with that is in how the water pumps work.  They are nothing more than an impeller (a litte propeller enclosed in metal) that spin.  They aren’t the most robust pieces of equipment and they intend to shatter into a million little pieces when no water is coming through.  So when I started the thing without putting it in the water I blew up the impeller.  The engine didn’t get any water ergo it overheated.  Luckily, the little 1987 Nissan 8 hp is more like a lawnmower engine than the car engine my 150 was like and instead of totally melting and turning into a gigantic paper weight it just shut off.  Nothing melted or fused together. 

I brought it home and stuck it on a big piece of cardboard in my living room since I was too sore and tired to take it into the basement.  I performed surgery the next day after I found schematics online for the various parts of the engine.  The impeller had indeed grenaded so I ordered a new one, put the thing back together, rigged a test harness in the backyard, hooked up a hose and there she peed!  Just like a race horse. 

I’ll talk about the sailing this past weekend in a later post since this novel has gone on long enough.  Suffice to say, the engine worked most of the weekend although it did cut out at a less-than-ideal time on Saturday.

Anyway, pictures!

Crappy picture of the engine in pieces:


Crappy picture of the engine with its anti-cat cover on:


Really tiny picture (wtf?) of the engine on its testing harness behind the house hooked up and ready to go:


Engine peeing like a racehorse!


Sailing picture from Saturday:


Classical Conditioning

So we just covered classical and operant conditioning in my Psych class and I thought I’d leave you all with part of my paper on the classical-side.  Classical conditioning is the idea that you can condition someone to associate a stimulus with a behavior it isn’t naturally associated with.  For example, when your mouth waters because you smell a cake cooking.  Your mouth watering is because it was conditioned to after you associated eating the cake with the smell.

Operant conditioning is the action/consequence way of learning.

Anyway, the paper babbles about unconditioned and conditioned stimulus and responses, etc but its the content that I thought you’d all be interested in.  It certainly isn’t my best written paper.  I think I talked about it long ago in my blog but this puts it pretty succulently.

Needless to say, this was the thing that got me into therapy in the late 90’s and I have since more or less gotten over it.


When I was a child I used to be taken to an eye doctor by my mom in a city about 30 miles away from where I grew up. During this trip we would always pass a rest stop on the highway. Anxiety from not being able to get out of going to the doctor – from being out of my control – would be very intense for me on the trip. When I would get anxious I would need to use the bathroom; the origin of which is beyond this example. Usually we were running late and would not have time to stop at the rest stop on the way. I would put my head down and try to pretend the rest stop was not there because I had no control over whether we stopped or not. What happened as this situation repeated itself was that I began to associate being trapped or not in control with the need to go to the bathroom. Eventually, I associated being trapped or not in control (the conditioned stimulus) with having to go to the bathroom (the conditioned response).

This response faded over time (extinction) once I stopped having to go to the eye doctor and was able to leave a particular situation when I wanted to. Years later I went to New York City for New Year's and was put into a situation that induced spontaneous recovery of the associated behavior. I arrived with my friends four hours early and were confined to an area that I could not leave until after New Year's had come and gone. Once I realized I was basically trapped for four hours or so the need to go to the bathroom became overwhelming which in turn led to anxiety bordering on a panic attack.

Similar events in my life have played out on this association that are an example of generalization. For example, at the height of this problem I was unable to be in any situation that would prevent me from having total control. Lines at the grocery store, roller coasters, being the passenger in someone's car would all cause an intense need to use the bathroom.

Being stuck in traffic is an example of discrimination. If I was the one driving I didn't have any problems. If I was in the passenger seat and we hit traffic the association would be very powerful.

Two Graphs

In case you weren’t worried enough about the unemployment numbers, I present two graphs.

The first, the recession historically since 1948 compared to other recessions:


The second, the same graph but as whole numbers of jobs, not a relative percentage:


Either way you slice it, yikes.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Anyone Want To Go Sailing?

With help, on Thursday Jan 29th I was able to officially purchase the 1983 Catalina 25 I mentioned in a previous post.  I spent most of the day on it Sunday before the Uber Bowl and let me tell you, I am very sore.  But it was awesome.  Like the water rat says in ‘The Wind in the Willows’: “There is nothing- absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

The boat was used mostly for racing and as such the the rigging is in great shape.  It came with a 2004 main sail, the original Jib, and a 150 and 170 genoas, both purchased recently.  Also conveyed with the slip paid through March and some electronics.  Plus a bunch of crap I have no idea what its for yet. 

The little 8 hp outboard already overheated so now I have a project.  I need to take the water pump apart and see in the impeller is toast.  I’m thinking it is.  Same thing that happened to my 150 Mercury on my speed boat, damn it all.  At least the engine didn’t melt.  And let me tell you, the adventure yesterday was nuts.  Trying to get the thing of the slip and the engine kept crapping out, wind blowing us into not good areas…good times.  Turns out, we did all the hard parts of sailing with none of the fun parts yesterday.  Docked/undocked, raised and struck the sails, etc but no actual sailing.

Anyway, some pictures:






It looks like a day sail would be comfortable for up to 6 peeps or so.  One or possibly two nights would be cool for 4, particularly if we docked in a slip somewhere.  Anything longer than that and people are going to have to get along well, but I fully plan on doing it.

I have a huge project list for it.  But there are several things I expect to do over the next couple of months that won’t be too costly to get the interior into shape for cruising.  Not much needs to be done on the rigging.  The exterior needs some cleaning as well.

Good times!


I’m procrastinating on a paper that was due yesterday so here are some pictures.

People streaming in to the Obamarama concert on Jan 18th:


My view:


Crowd behind us…went quite a ways past the monument:


Crowd to the right:


The sardine can we were in after the show:


Good show.  Crazy crowd.  Lots of fun.

Next!  My cat sleeping on me.  This is pretty typical:


Here is a fire at a friend’s house from a couple of weeks ago:


Some artwork at Clyde’s Bon Voyage party:


A Star Destroyer made out of Legos at Fabbioli’s:


A sneak peek:


An finally, see!